Dan Smith and Nellie Gansworth
at wire recording session with Anthony Wallace, 1948
Linguistically, the Tuscarora language is identified as Northern Iroquoian. Historically, the Tuscarora were the last to join the Six Nations comprising the Iroquois Confederacy. At the time of European contact, the Tuscarora were situated in what is now eastern North Carolina. In the 18th century, the Tuscarora migrated north and joined the Iroquois Confederacy in 1722. The Tuscarora Nation of New York, near Buffalo, is federally recognized in the United States; the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontrario, which includes members of the Tuscarora Nation, is federally recognized by the Canadian government.
The four clips in this exhibit are being used by the Tuscarora Nation to preserve their language and to revitalize their culture. Three of them were made by Anthony F.C. Wallace in 1948 and 1949. Wallace is a distinguished anthropologist and ethnohistorian, who taught for many years at the University of Pennsylvania, has worked with the Tuscarora community for more than fifty years. Dr. Wallace is working with the APS on its new Digital Knowledge Sharing Initiative. This program also involves Wendy Bissell, a respected elder in the Tuscarora Nation of New York, who is the granddaughter of Dan Smith. Mrs. Bissell was deeply moved to hear this recording, which was originally recorded on a now obsolete wire recorder and was thus unavailable for decades; “it is the first time that I ever heard my grandfather’s voice.” Wendy Bissell and Dr. Wallace are now working together to integrate these recordings into the curriculum of Tuscarora language classes on the reservation.
Dan Smith, circa 1950s
The other two clips feature Chief Clinton Rickard and Chief Elton Greene, the latter of which was recorded by the linguist Marianne Mithun in 1971. Elton Greene was the Sachem Chief of the Sand Turtle clan and he is recorded here reciting greetings and basic phrases in English and the Tuscarora language. Dr. Mithun recently took the newly digitized recordings of Chief Greene to the Tuscarora reservation. When one of the few elders who still speaks the Tuscarora language heard the old recording, he began talking as if in conversation with Chief Greene, creating new language recordings that Dr. Mithun will use in her new project to write a grammar of the Tuscarora language.
Collections with Tuscarora audio recordings: